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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

Have a Blessed Independence Day
America Is, Indeed, A Nation Founded “Under God”
[Carol Platt Liebau] 7/4/05

It is, sometimes, both startling and valuable to be pulled up short. It happened to me last week – when I heard a minister insist that America had not, in fact, been founded on Judeo-Christian principles.

In these polarized times, the mere notion of the existence of “Judeo-Christian principles” is profoundly upsetting to those who carry a largely imaginary mental image of a “religious right” frothing at the mouth, ready to impose a form of Christian fundamentalism on every American and desperately afraid – as H.L. Mencken once described “American puritans” – that someone, somewhere is having a good time. But truth cannot be denied – and the truth is that Judeo-Christian principles are as inextricably intertwined with American history and politics as the flag is with the Fourth of July.

The assertion of this simple truth shouldn’t be confused with an arrogant sense that – because the overwhelming majority of delegates to the Constitutional convention were committed Christians – those of the Christian faith somehow occupy (or should occupy) a uniquely privileged position in American society. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nor are specific Biblical doctrines explicitly invoked or inserted into the text of the Declaration or the Constitution.

Even so, the influence of Judeo-Christian thought permeates all of America’s founding documents. The concepts of God-given rights, equality of all people before the law, the sinfulness of mankind (and even the idea of freedom of conscience itself!) – reflect the intellectual underpinnings of traditional Judeo-Christian belief. And these convictions are not universal religious values – after all, certain strands of Islamic belief hold women to be spiritually and legally inferior to men; under traditional Hindu doctrine, the lowest caste – the “untouchables,” – are social outcasts.

Religious diversity is part of America’s glorious melting pot, and there are, without doubt, many roads to God. Adherents of all faiths – or no faith at all – have found a welcome in the United States, as it should be. But the traditional (and proper) American embrace of religious pluralism doesn’t mean that all faiths informed the formation of the American form of government.

And it would certainly be a mistake to believe that no religious influence (or a deist belief in a disengaged, indifferent God) is reflected in America’s founding documents. Moreover, it would be dangerous.

Here’s why. As America’s great leaders from George Washington to Ronald Reagan have pointed out, it’s folly to believe that a republic can truly thrive in the absence of a moral and religious people. Religious faith of any stripe (so long as it is uncorrupted by unreasoning hatred) creates in its believers a sense of moral obligation that strengthens the quality of public life.
Doubtless many of those who deny the religious underpinning of America’s founding ((like the minister I spoke with last week) do so out of an admirable desire to ensure that all members of American society feel equally welcome and are equally valued. They are, indeed – in itself a beautiful reflection of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage.

So amid all our Independence Day celebrations, let’s take a moment to give thanks for the spiritual heritage that has made room for so many, and blessed us with such freedom. tOR

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and theOneRepublic / editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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